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Hochul threatens funding cuts to school districts that disobey the state's mask mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wears a necklace with the word "vaxed" during an event in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.
Mary Altaffer
Associated Press
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul said school districts could face state funding cuts if they don’t enforce the mask mandate. Her warning came after Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, signed an executive order that lets school districts decide whether kids are required to mask up.

Hochul said the executive order by Blakeman, the newly sworn-in Republican leader, cannot override state law.

“Those who underestimate me do so at their own peril, including the county executive of Nassau County,” Hochul said on Friday. “I have the law of the state of New York behind me and I will always exercise my authority and obligation to protect the health of the people of this state.”

She said the state education department strongly supports the requirement that children wear masks in school, and there would be penalties for districts that disobey the law.

“Those who choose to defy that will understand that there are consequences and fines and cessations of funding, which I don't think the school districts will want to deal with,” Hochul said.

Blakeman said since school board members are elected, they’re “in the best position” to make decisions on whether masks should be required in their schools. He also announced expanded distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations and rapid tests.

The standoff between Hochul and Blakeman comes as pediatric cases of COVID-19 are increasing faster than adult cases.

At least 10 Democratic state lawmakers from Nassau County, including state Senators Jim Gaughran, John Brooks and Todd Kaminsky, urged Blakeman to rescind the order in a joint statement on Friday, calling it “irresponsible and clearly unlawful.”

“We are confident the school districts of Nassau County will continue acting responsibly in the coming days, as they had no input in the County Executive's actions,” the lawmakers said.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.
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